In 2011, after 7 seasons of being a “volunteer Santa”, I decided to try my hand at being a professional “paid” Santa.
Santa Tim Connaghan hired me for my first 3 real professional Santa jobs. The first 2 were in Medford, Oregon doing ‘photo work’ at the local Walmart & Sears portrait studios.
In my 7 seasons, I had posed for thousands of photos… but these were all FREE photos. The photographer and I were volunteers and there was no cost for the photos. This was the first time people were actually going to PAY to have photos taken with me.
I’ve been blessed with a nice smile that I’ve received compliments on since grade school, and as a professional speaker and with a long career a sales & marketing I was accustomed to smiling and projecting a nice image. I also received many, hundreds, of compliments about my earlier Santa photos… but still, now people were going to be paying for studio portraits with Santa… I felt I needed to up my game.
During my years as portraying Santa I had modified the traditional say “CHEESE” when having a photo taken to the more seasonal, say “Candy Cane”, which was fun and actually worked pretty well, but in the preparation material I received from Tim I was given a new tip.
Instead of saying and having the children say the traditional “cheese” Tim suggested using the word “Yeah!” (yeah – ye(ə) exclamation & noun. Nonstandard spelling of yes.)
As it turns out when we say “Yeah!” our mouth naturally forms a smile shape. Try it. Say Yeahaaa!
That got me thinking about what else I could do to improve the photos.
I started practicing my smile. I made a greater effort to keep my mustache groomed up and off my upper lip. I ‘tested’ dozens of hand & head positions until I found “looks” that I liked.
Since learning this tip from Tim, and becoming more aware of other ‘smile words’ & poses 8 years ago, I’ve had the unique privilege of being in many photoshoots, some with world-class photographers taking photos for print ads, shooting videos & commercials and these “techniques” have served me really well.
I’ve also found that practice REALLY helped me improve. (Imagine that.) 🙂
By taking selfies and videos on my phone and webcam and then really giving them a critical examination, and showing them to others and getting their opinions, I have found many little things that have improved both my appearance and the appearance of my photo partners.
If you’re a Gold or Platinum member now is an excellent time to review the session on working with professional photographers and photo studios with Santas Cliff Snider, Marty Jorgenson & Patrick Faulds.
Working with photographers and photo studios is a great way to have even more fun, and earn more money, portraying Santa.
The words of happy customers can bring about amazing increases in ‘conversion rates’.
This is a slightly ‘re-purposed’ post from my website- https://encore-entrepreneur-learning-center.com it’s more business-oriented than many of my posts but it’s also very applicable to our Santa businesses.
Think about the last time you were looking to hire a contractor or some type of professional for a service. Or, say, the last time you were about to purchase an expensive item.
Who did you consult with before making your decision? Did you ask a friend or colleague for recommendations? Did you consult a consumer report about the expensive item’s performance?
Just like you and I, most people would. You see, word of mouth is one of the most powerful forms of marketing out there. Buyers want to confirm that they’re making the right decision by hearing about positive experiences from other buyers and friends.
As a business owner, you can use testimonials or reviews to harness the power of word of mouth marketing. Reviews will help alleviate concerns in the hiring process. Potential customers weighing their purchase decisions will have more confidence knowing that someone else has had a positive experience or seen the promised results.
A strong review program will you help you get more and better bookings. Sound good?
In this little mini E-Class we will cover:
- How reviews boost conversions
- How asking for reviews can boost repeat business
- Types of reviews
- How to get reviews for your Santa business
- What makes reviews ‘good’ or credible
The presence of reviews in your marketing materials and on your website will increase your conversion rate (the percentage of potential customers those who actually book you).
Your conversion rate is directly related to your ability to build immediate trust with prospective clients. When you use reviews some of this work is already done for you.
Reviews tell prospective customers about the opinions and experiences of other buyers, which builds trust, establishes credibility and reduces perceived purchase risk.
- Trust: People have an inherent skepticism towards marketing material and it takes time to build trust and rapport with prospective buyers. Reviews build trust because they come from third party, unbiased sources.
- Credibility: Reviews show that you have been in business for a while and that you have a base of happy customers. This sends a positive message about the quality of your products or services.
- Perceived Purchase Risk: Another person has hired you, and been satisfied or pleased with the results, so the risk involved in the purchase seems lessened.
The process of gathering reviews naturally encourages repeat and referral business.
Clients who give reviews generally stay loyal to your product or service and will tell their friends and family about it.
Happy customers will be returning customers. However, when a customer shares an opinion or an experience and attaches their name to it, there is an added sense of loyalty created. They’ve publicly declared that they’re a supporter of the product or service in question and will back up that decision if questioned.
When you ask a customer for a review, you’re also asking them to contribute to the growth of your business. Customers who feel they are helping you out will feel a sense of both pride and loyalty to your product or service.
Reviews are also great indicators of word of mouth marketing. If a customer has taken the time to tell you about their positive experience or commit it to writing, they’ve also shared it with their friends. This verbal chain of reviews acts as an informal referral strategy and will boost your referral business
There are 3 different types of reviews you could potentially use to market your Santa business:
- Customer: Of course, the strongest and most believable reviews will be one from a satisfied customer. When you use good customer reviews, you should expect to see strong spikes in qualified leads and sales.
- Expert Organization: A relevant and credible group or association in your area can offer strong reviews that will carry weight with prospective buyers. The chamber of commerce, a trade organization or a not-for-profit are some examples.
- Press: The media’s opinion can also act as a strong review. A reporter’s positive review of your service is an unbiased opinion, so it is likely to be trusted by prospective clients. (I’ve shown you how to use the press to get free publicity in our Gold Member sessions).
Here’s how you can start to gather credible reviews for your marketing strategy.
1. Create a system for requesting, collecting and organizing reviews.
Once you get rolling with your reviews acquisition program, you’re going to need a place to organize and store reviews, as well as to track which customers you’ve asked and which you’ve received from.
I recommend creating a list of all of your customers and indicating next to each which you have received reviews from, which you have asked for reviews, and which you should plan to ask for reviews.
Then, create a filing system or binder for organizing and managing reviews. You can sort them by date, customer last name, or category (Home Visits, Company Party, Not-For-Profit, etc.). Just be sure it is easy for you to find them when you need to. This is going to be an ongoing part of your marketing campaign, so prepare for a large number of reviews when you’re setting up your system.
2. Read incoming mail and email for unsolicited reviews.
Create a folder or system for keeping reviews that come in on their own – unsolicited ones. Any kind of customer feedback or thank you could be a great review to use, so include them in your organization system.
You may need to go back into your files, or your inbox, to locate the feedback and reviews you read but hadn’t used or separated. As long as you get permission from your customer, any review – old and new – is potentially a good one.
3. Start by asking your best customers for reviews.
While you may see a nice number of reviews float in through the mail and email, you will have to work for the majority of your reviews. You will have to ask for them.
Start with a list of your customers and choose the best 10 – 20%. These are your best customers, and a great place to start requesting reviews.
Use the reviews request letter template in the Marketing section of the Gold Member’s only section as a guide for creating your request letter. Be sincere, and encourage the customer to write their own letter instead of you drafting it for them.
Feel free to make general suggestions about what you would like them to write about, but try not to control the process. If you’re comfortable doing so, when you see what they have written make some suggestions or request certain sections be strengthened or more specific.
4. Make requesting reviews a part of your relationship building process.
Once you’ve “caught up” on your reviews requests, and asked your top customers for a few thoughts and opinions, you can create a system for ongoing review collecting. These reviews will be “solicited” as opposed to “unsolicited.”
The most important point here is to ask for a review as soon as possible after your Santa appearance. The longer you wait, the less inclined the customer will be to put the effort into writing their thoughts down. Besides, most customers are the happiest and most willing to help immediately after they see you being their Santa Claus.
- Ask for the review. If a customer is glowing and gushing with praise, ask them to put it in writing, on letterhead if they have it. Tell them that it would really help you (your customers will love to help!) and that you value their feedback. If they’re not gushing, but you know they’re happy, be bold and ask them if they would write down what their experience was with your business. Stay on top of your reviews gathering and ask as soon as possible.
- Get all their contact details. Get all your customer’s contact details you can follow up and have them send you their letter or review. The act of giving you their contact information will also establish a sense of commitment, and it will be more likely that they’ll follow through.
- Tell them when you’re going to follow up. You don’t want to be a pest, but if you don’t follow up you may never get that review. Tell them when you’re going to be in contact to retrieve their letter or email. If you’re going to email them in a week or call them in a few days, let them know what your plan is.
- Offer to write the first draft. This is a last resort strategy for customers who don’t write their own. Remember the reviews written by real customers are the most believable, so try not to offer this up front. If your customer suggests this, try to encourage them to write their own brief notes. If that doesn’t work, brainstorm some of their ideas, and then write it yourself. If possible try to have it printed on their letterhead and signed… although nowadays emails are fine too.
5. Always ask your customers for permission to use their name and words in your marketing materials, and don’t forget to say thank you.
Thank your customer for their reviews, and use that opportunity to gain their permission to use their name and words in your marketing materials – including your website, brochure, ads, and anywhere else.
Be sincere in your thanks, and if appropriate send a full letter or email (templates are available in the Gold Member’s only section of the site). Thank them for their time and their kind words, and anything else you may notice about their efforts.
You will want to gain permission from customers who send you solicited and unsolicited reviews. The easiest way to do this is to send a “blanket release” that allows you to use their comments – in part or in whole – in all current and future materials. This way you won’t have to ask each time you want to run an ad, or send a direct mail campaign. You’ll already have permission.
What makes a ‘good’, credible or useable customer review?
Don’t be afraid to use long reviews, they’re more believable than short ones. Too often businesses like to use one-word reviews in quotations because they’re easy to “sprinkle” all over their marketing material. For example, “…amazing!…”, “…couldn’t believe it…can’t wait to see the next one!”, or “hilarious…wonderful!”.
When a review is super short, your readers will suspect that they’ve been edited to sound positive and that the “…” are masking neutral or negative comments. Be sure to give at least a full sentence, if not two or three, to really let the reviews illustrate the message.
AUTHENTIC! EXCEPTIONAL! PROFESSIONAL!
We had Santa Ed and Mrs. Claus at our world record attempt for the most snowmen built in an hour. We had 800 employees and 400 kids and Santa and Mrs. Claus were a hit with everyone one of them! They engaged the kids and adults alike! We will not hesitate to use them in the future!
El Segundo, CA
It’s longer and won’t squeeze in as easily in a brochure or small ad, but it will have a much stronger impact on the target audience.
Get specific, detailed reviews whenever you can. Ask your customers to provide as much color and description about their experience, and speak to any minuscule aspect they may have been impressed by.
Specific reviews are better than vague or typical-sounding reviews. Too often when you receive a review, you skim through it looking for the summary line that paints your business in the best light, like “We were thrilled with our experience.” This leaves questions in the readers’ mind, like “why?”, “when?”, “what was your experience all about?” and “what thrilled you?” If it only says, “Best service in town,” how will the reader’s know what makes it the best service in town?
The strongest reviews share specific information and paint descriptive pictures or tell stories that engage the reader. They mention points about your Santa visits that matter to other prospective customers, as well as describe the problems they were having before they found you. Detail will help the reader relate to or identify with the satisfied customer’s struggles and frustrations that have been solved by hiring you to be their Santa Claus.
Don’t try to edit or “polish” the reviews you receive from customers. Punctuation and grammar errors contribute to the believability of the statements.
Also, be cautious when editing the reviews for brevity or when cropping statements from a letter or long email. Remember that the customer signed off on you using their words verbatim, so make sure you do. Small edits could change the meaning of the sentences, which could upset customers when they see their names in print.
Back up each reviews with a clear, specific description of who said it, and where they’re from. Attributing statements to vague names like “T.M in Oregon” or “Jim F, Small Business Owner” will dramatically reduce the believability of your review. People are naturally skeptical and will be more likely to believe testimonials that don’t attempt to conceal the identity of the author and include more than the first name.
Attribute each quote to a person’s full name, city, state, and (if relevant) their business name and job title. For example, “Christopher Ford, Seattle, WA” or “Tim Wilson, Winnipeg, Manitoba – Owner of Fancy Meat & Deli Ltd.” The more detail, the more chance of a prospective customer recognizing the name or business and trusting the statement.
Location is important. Because you have a local business, prospects may look to see that others in the community have been pleased with your service. If you happen to serve a national or international market, you can use reviews to show your client reach.
If you have a review from an expert (like a doctor or business leader), be sure to include their credentials to make the most of their endorsement of your business.
It may also be helpful to include the company’s website address, especially if your business markets to other businesses. This is also a nice gesture of thanks to the person who gave their review, since it may encourage your customers to visit their site.
An image of the customer who wrote the reviews will enhance the impact and believability of the words. The statement is enlivened by the image, and thus carries more validity and impact.
Videos & Audio reviews are also highly effective. Consider asking customers if they would contribute their reviews on video or audio recording, and then use that clip on your website.
Ask customers if you can take a picture of them to accompany their words, and take a few simple shots yourself so you have a few to choose from.
If you’re going to go to the effort of collecting reviews, do what you can to make sure that they’re credible ones you can use.
At the end of the day, asking for a review is often like asking your customers for a favor. While you want to make sure their reviews is detailed and specific and all the things that make it credible, there’s a limit to what you can ask for, and that’s okay.
Sometimes you’ll get two-line emails, and other times you’ll get five-page letters. Work with what you can gather, and remember that reviews are always most believable when they’ve been written organically by the customer.
By the way, I’ve been doing this for a while. Here’s a letter I received in 2008 for an event I did in 2007…
A ‘sneak peek’ of snippets from an exclusive Gold Member session. These clips are from ‘Session 4’, the 1st of our 3 sessions on marketing. ENJOY! To become a Gold Member now click here
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My 2nd & 3rd Santa appearances were parades followed by Tree Lighting ceremonies.
Thankfully the mistake happened at the second event… making sure I didn’t repeat it the following evening.
It was 14 years ago but I remember it vividly. It was the Friday after Thanksgiving. I had attended the parade many times before. I knew thousands of people were already filling the plaza and lining the streets just I had done with my family many times in the past.
This year I was wearing a Santa suit standing ready to take my place in the back of the decorated truck that would carry me down the parade route.
When the parade ended I would be lead up to the balcony of a local restaurant where I would countdown from 10 to 1 for the “Grand Illumination”… but wait… the event organizer made her way over to me saying. “Santa, when you get to the balcony please thank our sponsors… here I made a list for you.”
Understand, I was a trained professional speaker. I had spoken to large groups before (my largest was about 1,800 people) but this was many thousands of people and I wasn’t being me, I was portraying Santa Claus. I didn’t want to just get up there and read a boring list… I wanted to express sincere thanks, just as imagined Santa would.
MY MISTAKE WAS THIS- I Didn’t Ask Ahead of Time if There Was Anything They Wanted Me to Say to the Crowd
I think I pulled it off OK but it would have been SO MUCH more comfortable if I had been given the list of who to thank and practiced my speech a few dozen times prior to the big moment.
In the years following, I was sure to ask if there were any changes in who I was to thank and I expanded my speech just a bit over the years… adding magic to the event that people still mention to me 10 years later.
So my advice is to ALWAYS ask your event organizer what they would like you to say, who you will be appearing with and importantly, are there any announcements about what the crowd should do next after the Lightning, perhaps meet you for photos, or enjoy other entertainment.
These large Community Events are a wonderful way to kick-off the Christmas season. I love them… and while I’m always flexible at these types of events it’s nice to have most of the big details worked out ahead of time.
Learn tips on how to book & perform in parades and Tree Lighting Ceremonies AND how to get on Local TV…
The 2nd & 3rd Santa appearances of my ‘Santa career’ were Parades & Tree Lighting ceremonies… I LOVED them and I was hooked instantly.
Now, 15 years later, I’ve appeared at 26 of these types of events and I’ve been on TV many times. Have a greater impact by spreading the Christmas Cheer in big ways always adds joy to my season.
Many Santas have mentioned that they would like to do, or do more of these types of events, so I’ve decided to add a special “Quick Start” session to help you make that happen this season.
This session is a supplement to our regular Gold & Platinum Level sessions…
18 Tips to Make This Your Best Santa Season Ever!
FREE WEBINAR Thu, Aug 2, 2018 login at any member level (INCLUDING FREE) to access the session.
Here’s the handout for the session. You can download it, print it out and use it for taking notes. Santa Ed Attendee Handout 18 Tip 08-18
18 Timely Tips to Make This Your Best Santa Season Ever!
FREE WEBINAR recorded Thu, Aug 2, 2018, you can log in as a FREE or paid member to access this session.
During this session, you will learn 2 Tips from each of the 9 areas of our ‘Core Curriculum’.
2 TIPS on: Characteristics of an Extraordinary Santa
2 TIPS on: How to be an Extraordinary Santa
2 TIPS on: Events with No Children & More
2 TIPS on: Business Objectives/Set-Up
2 TIPS on: Website & Online Marketing
2 TIPS on: Local/Social Ads & More
2 TIPS on: Malls & Retail Positions
2 TIPS on: The Media – What you MUST know
2 TIPS on: Being an ‘International Santa’ & More
In 19 weeks it will be Thanksgiving. 19 weeks!
Would you like to improve your storytelling, your ‘performance’, your sign language skills, your comfort and competence in being Santa for those with Special Needs?
Would you like to build your business, perhaps doing more work with photo studios or even work on TV or YouTube?
Over the next 19 weeks you can watch 1 session per week, you will learn from the experiences of dozens of Santas, and by Thanksgiving you will be ready to have your best Santa season ever.
Here’s a game plan for the next 19 weeks:
- How to Set Up Your Santa Business to Maximize Your Fun & Income
- How to Market Your Santa Business for Maximum Fun & Income
- Home Visits- How to Book More & Perform Better
- How to Become an Extraordinary Santa Claus
- How to Use Video Chats to Boost Income & Have Fun from Home
- How to Book & Perform Corporate Visits
- How to Get on TV for Fun and Profits
- How to Develop Other Revenue Sources as Santa Claus
- How to Book & Perform Community Events
The first 9 sessions are our “Core Curriculum” and you will be eligible for our ‘Certificate of Completion’ once you complete these sessions.
- Storytelling as Santa Claus with Santa Steve Gillham, Santa Glenn Heald and Santa True (AKA Robert Seutter)
- Being Santa for Children with Special Needs with Santa Patrick de Haan, Debra Rickey, Melanie Martin, Santa Kevin Haislip
- Storytelling as Santa – Coal Story with Santa Ed Taylor
- 101 Questions & Answers for Santa – Santa Joe Pridgen
- 7 Ways to Add Thousands to Your Income this Santa Season with Santa Ed Taylor
- Beard & Hair Bleaching – Santa’s Helping Santa’s with Eric Schmitt-Matzen (Santa Schmatz)
- Simple Sign Language for Santa & Mrs. Claus with Mrs. Claus Kat Imhausen
- Being Mrs. Claus with Nora-Penny Kovach, Cathy Berry & Lori Taylor
- Mistakes Santa’s Make Session with many Santas sharing
- Working with Photo Studios as Santa Claus with “Santa for Honolulu” Santa Marty, Santa Patrick Faulds (SC Santa) and Santa Claus Cliff Snider
7 BONUS SESSIONS
- Santa Season 2016 Debrief with many Santas sharing
- Santa Season 2017 Debrief with many Santas sharing
- On-Camera with Michelle McCarty-Jessica Kringle
- 12 Ways Santas Have Earned More Money
- 18 Common Santa Mistakes
- Being a Mall Santa with Kristi Cooper of WorldWide Photography
- 18 Common, Costly & Embarrassing Mistakes Made by Pro Santas & Mrs. Claus
Of course, you can watch the sessions whenever you want… 24/7.
Your total investment $197 for this GOLD Membership (with the bonus sessions that’s only $7.58 per session)
Register Now- CLICK HERE
WOW! I was totally surprised at the number of Santas who said they would like to share an experience or 2 with their fellow Santas.
The “topic survey” results are in with Marketing, Home/Company Parties & Performance/Storytelling topping the list.
The result… (login & go to your hub page to register)
A FREE WEBINAR-
“The Super Santa Share 2018”
Dozens of Santas & Mrs. Clauses will share experiences they’ve had with their marketing, home & company parties and with their performances & storytelling… and much more.
Some of the stories are very emotional and they will help us be better prepared for those moments when we can have a deep, significant and lasting impact on a family.
Some are very practical business experiences… Others are stories about what worked well… and not so well during appearances.
ALL SANTAS & Mrs. Clauses worldwide are invited to attend. The session is sponsored by the Gold, Silver & Platinum members of The Santa Claus Conservatory.com
If you have an experience you would like to share please let me know and provide me with a short description and I’ll add you to the speaker list.
Of course, the session is NOT open to the public so you must be at least a FREE member of the Santa Claus Conservatory.
It only takes a minute to become a member if you’re not one already. Simply complete the “Free Member” form on the right and you will immediately be able to create your username & password. Once you’re registered you can log in to register.
The session is scheduled for Thursday, July 12th, 5:30 PM Pacific Time.
If you have any questions you can text, call or email me.
I’m sure that EVERY Santa & Mrs. Claus will be able to benefit from the experiences shared in this session so please spread the word in your Santa groups, social networks, etc.
The session will be video recorded and available to all members of the Conservatory through the end of July.
Login to register and get you webinar access link.
Allowing “the character” to help shape our better behavior is a significant benefit of portraying Santa Claus.
Because we real-bearded Santa portrayers are portraying a character who has such a widespread reputation for being kind, considerate and jolly, and because many of us only portray this single character (and many of us get recognized as Santa in our day-to-day activities) portraying Santa Claus provides us with a unique and very significant opportunity for personal improvement, an opportunity that is simply not attached to other jobs, characters or traditional actors.
Of course, all people can, and should, be good people, but few have the opportunity to have their look help serve as a year-round reinforcement mechanism. 🙂